September 22, 2021
I had been thinking about tearing out the withered plants I had put in my containers this spring for the last several weeks. While the bell peppers are all doing okay (but small!), the poblano and tomatoes seemed to no longer produce. Even the cherry tomatoes have begun to decline, and I was not noticing new flowers. Cleaning out the containers is an annual event, but last year it did not occur so early in the season. Over the last week the temps have dropped from the 90F’s to the 80F’s and even the humidity has been lower. The weather people who had bemoaned the ravages of summer still with us are now worrying about the early onset of fall. While it is their job to report, and commiserate, the coming trends for us on air it always seems there is no pleasing them. Rather than making a move on my container plants, I choose to ignore them.
When I looked online to refresh myself on the area’s growing season in the Farmer’s Almanac, I instead came across information on the best plants for a fall garden. Putting plants in the ground during late summer for a fall harvest has many benefits but the challenge is getting your crops harvested before the winter frosts. I have already missed the optimal dates for most “fall” plants, which are August to early September. Our Almanac predicted first frost is October 31, which is only 39 days away. When you calculate fall plant dates you need to account for both the time to harvest the mature crop and whether the crop is tender or hardy when it comes to frost. As a rule of thumb, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and celery need 10-12 weeks before first frost (missed). Arugula, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips need 8-10 weeks (close, so maybe). Beets and radishes need 6-8 weeks before first frost (doable). This can be extended 2-3 weeks if you plan to protect your plants with cold frames or row covers.
The birds that had been availing themselves to my feeders seemed to be taking the summer off to forage naturally for the last two months. Since all I was doing was feeding squirrels, I became lax on keeping the feeders full. Melissa noticed several of the larger birds (Cardinals and Jays) have begun to return and check out the (usually) empty feeders. When I went out to refill the seed, I also noticed the plants I had given up on were again starting to produce. I had flowers on the three tomatoes and even the poblano. The jalapenos were both covered with small (2 inch/ 5 centimeter) fruit. Maybe I should just keep tending these regrowth plants and put some beets in the onion bed. Whatever, it will need to be done fast.
Thoughts: When my older brother was in high school there was a short kid who always tried out for the basketball team. Throughout Junior High his coaches had not discouraged him, but neither was he encouraged. During his sophomore year he finally got his growth spurt and shot up eight inches. By his Junior and Senior years, he played as the team’s star center. Whether it is a coach giving up on a small boy or me giving up on my withered plants, it is often done too quickly. All things seem to age and mature at their own rates, and at different times. When we encourage others to try and do their best at whatever they enjoy, we give them a chance to excel. Even if they never become the superstar they dreamed of as a child, they can find enjoyment at whatever level they obtain. Our job is to encourage and support others in whatever their endeavors. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.